What’s the real unemployment rate?

Date posted: December 6, 2010

We had some good news on the national job market in October with a 151,000 jobs being added and the unemployment rate holding steady at 9.6 percent. But N.C. Cooperative Extension economist Mike Walden says that the rate doesn’t tell us the whole unemployment picture.

“Well, this is the so-called headline rate. … It is a rate that is based on a fairly strict definition of unemployment. For example, if you are not actively looking for work even though you don’t have a job, want a job but you haven’t been sending out resume’s, going on interviews, you are not counted as unemployed.

“So the government does calculate alternative unemployment rates.  And, for example, if we include those so-called discouraged workers — those people who are unemployed but just have not been looking for work and are not counted as unemployed in the headline rate — if we include those folks, the October rate would have been 10.4 percent.

“If we also include people who are out of work and they are not now looking for work but they have looked for work within the last year, the rate goes up a little bit more to 11.1 percent.

“And then, finally, if we include people who are working, but they tell the surveyor they are only working part-time because they can’t find full time work due to economic circumstances, if we include those folks as unemployed, then the unemployment rate in October was 17 percent.”

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